When Marshal of the Nobility Pozdnyshev suspects his wife of having an affair with her music partner, his jealousy consumes him and drives him to murder. Controversial upon publication in 1890, The Kreutzer Sonata illuminates Tolstoy's then-feverish Christian ideals, his conflicts with lust and the hypocrisies of nineteenth-century marriage, and his thinking on the role of art and music in society. The Kreutzer Sonata is a convincing artistic study of jealousy and ill tempered polemic against society's sexual education of young men and women.
Toltoy's short novel, Family Happiness was written in 1858, before Tolstoy was married, in the aftermath of his courtship of a young woman named Valeriya Arsenyova. In this story, Tolstoy describes what he believed would have happened had he and Valeriya married. As it turns out, it is a startling forecast of the early years of his marriage to Sofiya Behrs. This is the first of Tolstoy's in-depth portraits of marriage. The evolution of his views of marriage and what constitutes family happiness is a central theme of Tolstoy's life, both artistic and personal.